Horror writers of an early generation took care to turn the camera of the mind’s eye away the moment the psychopath’s axe came crashing down on a hapless victim’s neck, or when a group of ghouls took the first bite of their gory feast. In the eighties, a new generation of authors changed all of that. The so-called splatterpunks wrote horror with the safety off, and dared their readers to not look away from the gore and terror they reveled in. If you’re looking for an introduction to this important moment in the history of horror, then we suggest the following works.
The Books of Blood
by Clive Barker
Any journey into splatterpunk should begin with Clive Barker. The author’s seminal collection The Books of Blood collects some of his most powerful tales, many of which have been adapted into films. if you’re looking for the original inspiration for films like “Rawhead Rex”, “Candyman”, “Lord of Illusions”, “The Midnight Meat Train”, you’ll find it in this anthology of gruesome, visceral horror. This is undiluted, classic Barker, which means you’ll be tangling with demons and devils, sadists of all sorts, and things that perhaps escape easy description — a sentient tumor among them.
Wormwood: a Collection of Short Stories
by Poppy Z. Brite
Poppy Z. Brite’s early work is both bloody and erotic. The short stories collected in Wormwood are from the beginning of his career, when the splatterpunk movement was still up and running. His novel Exquisite Corpse might be a good buy for committed gorehounds, but Wormwood is perhaps a better introduction for those looking to sample Brite’s brutal talents.
by Jack Ketchum
You think Stephen King can get a little gruesome? If so, allow me to introduce you to Jack Ketchum, an author that I like to think of as King’s black sheep cousin. Ketchum writes some of the goriest, most brutal horror fiction I’ve ever read. His classic novel Off Season is a modern day take on Sawney Bean and his clan: a group of cannibals living on the edge of civilization. King recommends it himself.
The Light at the End
by John Skipp and Craig Spector
Like Clive Barker, John Skipp and Craig Spector are considered great grandaddies of the splatterpunk movement. For many, their book The Light at the End is the quintessential novel of the genre: a movement-defining work that took a well-worn theme — vampire fiction — and turned it into something gritty, bloody, and ultra-modern.
by Ray Garton
Ray Garton’s Live Girls is a seamy look into the Times Square of yesterday: a place where a strip club full of vampires wouldn’t warrant a second glance from anyone. That is, except for Davey Owens: a heartbroken sad sack of a guy who comes in for a good time, and leaves minus a few pints of blood.